Hemingway’s Note to Max Eastman

“Ernest Hemingway, on his way to cover the civil war in Spain, stops in New York for a couple of days and drops in at Charles Scribner’s Sons publishing house. He wants to touch base with editor Max Perkins. Hemingway’s arrival is unannounced, and another writer, Max Eastman, is in Perkins’s office at the time. Hemingway nods at Eastman and proceeds to ignore him until he remembers a comment of Eastman’s. In a review titled “Bull in the Afternoon,” Eastman had described Hemingway as a member of the “False Hair on the Chest School of Writing.” Hemingway exposes his chest and asks, “Look false to you, Max?” Hemingway unbuttons Eastman’s shirt, and Eastman’s chest proves to be, in Perkins’s words, “as smooth as a bald man’s head.” Perkins tries to demonstrate that it’s not such a bad review by reaching for Eastman’s essay collection and reading a passage. This proves to be a tactical error. Hemingway snatches the book from Perkins’s hand, reads a passage that inflames his temper, and snaps the book shut on Eastman’s nose, and the two began grappling on top of Perkins’s desk and then the floor—until Hemingway, whom Perkins thinks is going to tear Eastman apart, begins to laugh.”

— Michael Gilmore, Harry Ransom Center

The quarrel described here between Ernst Hemingway and Max Eastman is, believe it or not, something that actually happened! It was documented by several newspapers at the time, and is included in biographies of Hemingway, Eastman, and Perkins. Interestingly, and lucky for us, the scuffle between the authors was also documented in Hemingway’s copy of Eastman’s Art and the Life of Action, with other Essays, a book that was borne out of the authors’ hostility toward one another.

On the inside cover, below a crude drawing of a hand, is written, “This is the book I ruined on Max (the Prick) Eastman’s nose, I sincerely hope he burns forever in some hell of his own digging. — Ernest Hemingway.”

Inside David Foster Wallace’s Library

In 2009, The Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin acquired an archive of David Foster Wallace’s library.

The collection is made up of 34 document boxes and 8 oversize folders and is divided into three main sections: works, personal and career-related materials and copies of works by Don DeLillo. The works section covers the period between 1984 and 2006 and includes material related to Wallace’s novels, short stories, essays and magazine articles. The personal and career materials section covers 1971 through 2008 and includes juvenilia, teaching materials and business correspondence. Most of the correspondence in the collection is between Wallace and his editors and is related to his work. The third, and smallest, section includes photocopy typescripts of three works by Don DeLillo, one of which, Underworld, contains extensive handwritten annotations by Wallace. DeLillo’s archive also resides at the Ransom Center.

“Corrections of Typos/Errors for Paperback Printing of Infinite Jest” from David Foster Wallace to Nona Krug and Michael Pietsch. On this page  of Infinite Jest, Wallace corrects the age of one of the characters in the book.
“Corrections of Typos/Errors for Paperback Printing of Infinite Jest” from David Foster Wallace to Nona Krug and Michael Pietsch. On this page of Infinite Jest, Wallace corrects the age of one of the characters in the book.
Inside cover of David Foster Wallace's annotated copy of Don DeLillo's Players. Harry Ransom Center.
Inside cover of David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Don DeLillo’s Players. Harry Ransom Center.

In addition to his own works and those of DeLillo, the archive contains more than 300 heavily-annotated books from Wallace’s personal library. You can read more about the archive here.

Inside cover of David Foster Wallace's annotated copy of Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. Harry Ransom Center.
Inside cover of David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. Harry Ransom Center.
Inside cover of David Foster Wallace's annotated copy of Rabbit, Run by John Updike. Harry Ransom Center.
Inside cover of David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Rabbit, Run by John Updike.
Harry Ransom Center.

Pointing out Passages in Gutenberg’s Bible

Only 48 original copies of the Gutenberg Bible are known to exist in the world today; one of them can be found at the University of Texas at Austin Harry Ransom Center. The Ransom Center’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible is unique in many ways, most notably for it’s interesting and mysterious marginalia.

For example, one reader of the manuscript has scratched the year 1589 into the gilded ‘h’ at the beginning of Deuteronomy for reasons unknown.

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Another feature of the Bible is a drawing of a hand that literally points to a marginal inscription of verse from Jeremiah that has been added to Vol. 2 by another reader.

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Drawings of hands used to point to important passages in manuscript texts were already being used by scribes centuries before the printing of Gutenberg’s Bible. The example below is a scan from a thirteenth-century Latin Bible from England, predating the Gutenberg by about two centuries.

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Euclid’s “Elements” with marginal Geometric Diagrams

The first printed edition of Euclid’s Elements, a compendium of mathematical and geometrical concepts and theory, was printed by the Venetian printer Erhard Ratdolf in 1482. Included in the margins of the original printed editions of Elements were hand-drawn geometric diagrams, added by the printer— a stylistic choice that was, at the time of early manuscript printing, still relatively unusual.

Below are reproductions of the diagrams, the originals of which would have been made using only a ruler, compass, and ink.

Clare Booth Luce’s Scene Description in ‘The Women

Claire Boothe Luce (March 10, 1903 – October 9, 1987) was the first woman to be appointed as a major U.S. ambassador abroad. Before this, and perhaps still, what she was best known for was authoring the play The Women (1936). The play, with it’s all-female cast, is a satire of the power-struggles and pampered lives of the elite women of New York. The Women ran for 657 performances at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, and broke all sales records for a nonmusical Broadway production. And not one man was on stage for a single performance. The social commentary solidified Luce’s status as a speaker on behalf of women and their role in the public sphere.

This scene description shows the process of Luce’s revisions and extensive notes on the play’s opening scene set at the cosmetic counter at Saks. Here, she begins outlining the distinct and contrasting characterizations for a social range of New York women.

Langston Hughes’s “Ballad of Booker T.” Revision Process

“Langston Hughes (1902-1967), known for his lyric poetry, often wrote insightful commentaries about African-American culture and race relations in the United States. In this 1941 poem he makes a case for the vindication of educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), the former slave and founder of Tuskegee Institute (1881) and the National Negro Business League (1900) who was harshly criticized by many people for emphasizing vocational education as the prerequisite for the political empowerment of black people.”

— Debra Newman Ham, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

These dated drafts of the “Ballad of Booker T.,” which include the author’s own notes and edits, allow us to move through the revision process with Hughes, to learn exactly how he was able to achieve the smooth, flowing rhythm that is so characteristic of his writing, and to arrive at the version of the poem that we’re familiar with today.

Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” Corrections

Originally published in 1865 and later revised in 1866 and again in 1871, “O Captain! My Captain!” was the only poem from Leaves of Grass to be widely reprinted and anthologized in author Walt Whitman’s lifetime. In one anthology, Riverside Literature Series No. 32, the editors published an earlier edition of the poem instead of an updated version, an error that Whitman couldn’t ignore. He added corrections to the copy of the poem, tore the page from the rest of the anthology, and sent it to the publishers of Riverside Literature.

“Leave you not the little spot” in the first stanza was supposed to be “O the bleeding drops of red.” In the second stanza, Whitman corrects “This arm I push beneath you” to “This arm beneath your head.” In the final stanza, the editors quoted, “But the ship, the ship is anchored safe, its voyage safe and done” whereas it should have read, “The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done.” Whitman has also made a few punctuation corrections throughout, changing many of the colons to semicolons.
On the reverse side of the page, Whitman has written, “Thank you for the little books, No. 32 “Riverside Literature Series”–Somehow you have got a couple of bad perversions in “O Captain,” & I send you a corrected sheet.” Dated February 9th of 1888, from Camden, New Jersey.

Carl Sagan’s Science Fiction Story Notes

These are images of notes for a fictional story written by Carl Sagan, likely when he was in college. The story includes time travel, exotic creatures, and discussion of the value of science fiction. The notes also include various doodles, drawings of faces, and various scribbles in the margins.

Excerpt: “I am afraid of the great silent spaces between the worlds.”
A close-up scan of page 6 of Sagan’s notes. In the top margin he has sketched a keyboard. Within the text, he has named a creature ‘QWERTYUIOP,’ the entire top row of letters on the keyboard. Also in the top margin is a line drawing of a man’s face.